Joint INI-ICMS-KTN report published highlighting the mathematical science opportunities in the Industrial Strategy

4 June 2019

In February 2019,  a workshop took place to analyse and explore the various aspects of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). This was organised by INI, the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS),  Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and an organising committee representing the breadth of the mathematical sciences. The event took place at ICMS in Edinburgh, related to one of 26 recommendations made by Professor Philip Bond in his 2018 Review of Knowledge Exchange in the Mathematical Sciences launched at the House of Lords.

Over the three days, the 70 representatives from the mathematical sciences community heard from senior UKRI representatives who outlined the ISCF purpose and processes and the various challenges for consideration. The mathematical sciences community then discussed with these representatives the areas of mathematical innovation they felt underpinned the challenges. They also considered how the community might engage with senior business delegates in co-creating such challenges. By discussing the requirements for a ‘good’ ISCF challenge and with priming talks on global industry trends, templates were worked on which might be considered mathematically-inspired ISCF challenges.

A report has now been published that summarises the discussion that took place at the workshop and identifies some next steps. This includes a foreword by David Abrahams, Director of INI and was written by Matt Butchers (KTN) and Joanna Jordan  (Independent Mathematics Knowledge Exchange Consultant).

Click HERE to read the report: The Mathematical Sciences and the ISCF.pdf

> Further information can be seen on the KTN website.

> See below for David Abrahams’ foreword to the report:

The Mathematical Sciences is a subject of great intrinsic value and utility. The UK punches above its weight, by all metrics, in regard to the scale and quality of its research. It is also a subject which has exceptional breadth. Hence, in many UK mathematical sciences departments we pride ourselves on undertaking study in topics such as industrial mathematics, applied statistics and operational research in addition to the more traditional areas of pure and applied mathematics. There is a general recognition in our community of the value of our interaction with cognate disciplines, such as physics and computer science, and increasingly to subjects further afield in the humanities and social sciences.

In recent years, there has been a push towards technological solutions to complex global and societal issues. This has translated into a greater importance placed on the impact of the research that governments around the world support. The UK is at the vanguard of this drive to ensure that research groups within academia better recognise and exploit their activities and build partnerships both to other disciplines and to industry and Government.

As the UK Mathematical Sciences research community already works with many sectors outside academe, one may conclude that it is relatively easy to scale up this activity in impactful areas. However, this is not the case for a variety of reasons, not least the ‘impedance mismatch problem’ – as coined by Professor Peter Grindrod CBE – and our inability to engage easily with stakeholders to define and develop fertile areas of common interest. A number of enthusiastic members of our community, together with the national Learned Societies and the Knowledge Transfer Network, have worked tirelessly to encourage debate about the way ahead for knowledge exchange in the mathematical sciences, to enable greater scale-up through collaborations, to break down barriers impeding interdisciplinary interactions, and to facilitate fuller engagement with the significant funding opportunities introduced in recent years.

As Director of the Isaac Newton Institute (INI), and its knowledge exchange arm, the Newton Gateway to Mathematics, I see it is as my responsibility, in partnership with the International Centre for Mathematical Sciences (ICMS), to focus and facilitate the efforts of the community to the above ends. Together, we are the independent UK research infrastructure for the mathematical sciences and so our role is to provide support, expertise and encouragement to our academically and geographically diverse community. A little over a year ago we ran a workshop for the community on the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) from which came a dedicated EPSRC call. This report arises from another such activity, a three-day workshop organised by the KTN and a team of academics and supported by both INI and ICMS. Its purpose was to analyse and explore the various aspects 4 of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and thus minimise the ‘impedance mismatch’ between researchers within the mathematical sciences community, with their traditional capability-led research programmes, and the broader challenge-led multidisciplinary opportunities. This report is an aide-memoire for participants at that event, and a useful introduction to ISCF for those who could not take part. I believe that it will provide a valuable future resource for those seeking to engage in the ISCF.

I am grateful to Dawn Wasley and the rest of the team at ICMS for their hosting of the workshop in Edinburgh and to the organising committee for their time and energy on this project. I extend special thanks to Jo Jordan (Freelance KE Consultant) and Matt Butchers (KTN) for the successful running of the meeting and for the production of this excellent report.

– Professor David Abrahams – Director, Isaac Newton Institute.

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